Friday Short: The Year of the Horse

This morning, my host parents asked what year I was born. I soon found out that I was born in the Year of the Horse, according to the Earthly Branches of the Korean zodiac (based on the Chinese zodiac).

What does Korean culture say about those of us born in the Year of the Horse:

“People born in The Year of the Horse are popular…They are independent and rarely listen to advice. For this reason, in Korea, women born in the Year of the Horse were not considered desirable brides – they were said to be too independent.”

I don’t put a lot of stock in how the stars were aligned on my birthday, but in an instant, my family was able to tell me the animal associated with the year they were born. When I first arrived in Korea, I was asked my blood type. Not entirely sure, I said that I was Type o, which was meet with “Oohhs and ahhhs.” My students can tell me their blood type above anything else (it’s odd not to know your blood type). It means something to my students, their animals and their blood types are critical to identities.

Perhaps this is one of the biggest differences between Korea and the United States. Korea is technologically and socially developed in every way like the U.S., but there is still a hint of the ancient at work. There is still a tugging of the past that lingers within each home and each life. I am convinced that unlike the United States, Korea is still at a crossroads where the future and the past beckon loudly and consistently.

I believe that it is this dual beckoning that allows for the creativity and excitement that I have experienced while living, teaching, and learning in South Korea.

geon bae from a different kind of south,



2 thoughts on “Friday Short: The Year of the Horse

  1. So what about western astrological signs (Pisces, Aquarius, Leo, etc.)? Most Americans know what their sign is and a lot of people (too many, imho) are very aware of what other signs are “compatible” or what their horoscopes are telling them. (Knowing the animal or the sign isn’t really so different than simply knowing the year or month of one’s birthday, is it?)

    But I doubt that our astrological signs are critical to our identities, even for the so-called fortune-tellers.

    If anything, the animals of the Chinese zodiac are just the east Asian form of the same popular superstitions that we have in the west. Same with blood type — which, when I think about it, isn’t even remotely “ancient”, as blood types were first discovered in the early 20th century.

    All of that aside, I do think you’re right that Korea as a whole is in the midst of a tug-of-war between the past and the present; the evidence of that, I feel, is more in the technological strides being taken every year (and the growing gap between the urban and rural settings) than in superstitions about blood types and zodiac signs.

    • I think you are correct in many ways!

      I suppose I’ve seen a more evident “use” of blood type and astrological signs here in Korea. In the US, I paid very little attention to my Western horoscope sign, never read horoscopes, and I never thought it to influence my comparability with any person, place, or thing. In the U.S., anytime a person asked my blood type, it was when I went to the doctor. Even then, I wasn’t so sure what my type was!

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